Can-Am Motorcycles by Bombardier

About the Classic Can-Am Site

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Why I Created The Classic CanAm Website

I was moved to create this page because I've never had more fun in my life than when I rode motorcycles. It started in 1968 with a Suzuki, then OSSA, and followed by 2 Husky's. I guess I didn't realize how much fun I was having at the time, because in 1974 I swore to quit riding forever and sold my last Husky (I fell down a lot and saw more than my share of hospital ER's). Months after I swore off motorcycles forever (with a solemn oath), I decided to attend the 1975 LASX just to take a peek at what was happening in the M/C world. I had not been keeping up with the National MX circuit during my little sabbatical and didn't know who was currently kicking butt. As I watched the LA race unfold, 2 guy's on the ugliest white motorcycles I'd ever seen, appeared to be developing their own private race far ahead of the rest of the field. Thinking I was as motocross savvy as one gets, I couldn't believe that they were riding motorcycles that I was unfamiliar with.

"What are those white bikes in front?," I asked the guy next to me.

"They're them new Canadian motorcycles made by some damn snowmobile company," he said sounding somewhat frustrated.

"Canadian motorcycles???"

Hard core off-road motorcycle riders have a certain way of thinking. In high school when teachers would ask about my favorite book, the answer was never anything like "Tom Sawyer," or "Brave New World." It was usually something like "The Art of Motocross" by Jeff Smith. Favorite author? "Super Hunky." My way of learning geography was also unique. When they'd say Czechoslovakia, I'd think of CZ. When they'd say Sweden, I'd think of Husqvarna, England AJS, etc.. So when someone said Canada, I was baffled since I had nothing in my schema to use for referential comparison.

Then I remembered. I had seen a CanAm at Sears Point Raceway in CA around 8 months earlier. The CanAm I saw at Sears Point had an exhaust pipe that looked like something that should launch missiles, and the carburetor mounting appeared to be an engineering afterthought. I talked to the rider and asked him why the carburetor was way in the back of the motor like that. He told me that it was a rotary valve engine and that mounting location was a revolutionary design. I vaguely remembered the discussion, and how stupid I thought it was for any company to use a rotary valve engine on a new model motorcycle. After all, my old Suzuki had a rotary valve and was the poorest running bike I ever owned. To make matters worse, the CanAm racer I saw had an oil injection system! I was certain that these guys new absolutely nothing about making motorcycles.

I knew that Jim Ellis and Buck Murphy were great riders. But as I watched the LASX that night, it was very fascinating how these two bikes were sticking so close together in front of everyone else. Plus there was an obvious horsepower advantage demonstrated by their acceleration out of the corners.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to get an up close look at a CanAm when I got home. The nearest dealer to me was 50 miles away, but I had nothing else to do that day and thought it would be a nice drive. When I found the dealer he only had 2 CanAms on the floor. One looked like it just finished the Baja 1000 but the other was factory new. He started to answer my numerous questions about the bikes and then stopped. "Here, just ride it," he said. There was a short hesitation on my part, but then I thought, what the hell. "Okay," I said as I jumped on the beat up Baja looking bike, hoping to take a nice putt across the long parking lot.

Having owned a couple of Husky's, I was somewhat startled when the cold engine came to life on one kick. The first thing I noticed was that it sounded way too quiet to produce any "real" horsepower. The second thing I noticed was that the parking lot appeared shorter than I originally thought once I got on the gas. "Wow!" I said to the dealer. "This is one fast 250!" He started to chuckle and said, "It's a 175 kid . . . and this is the enduro model. The motocrosser has even more horsepower."

As my grandfather would have said, "that's all she wrote." I broke my oath without a second thought and ordered up a 175 MX2. Although I subsequently purchased a number of CanAm's over the years, I still think that MX2 was more fun to ride than any other motorcycle I've ever owned.

If you've ever been a CanAm rider, then you've experienced what it's like to go play riding or racing and attract a group of lookie loos. Sometimes you'd get that guy who made fun of the bike, and wanted to tell you how poorly some magazine said they handled. Well, for some models that was very close to true. Other times people would say that they wouldn't trust any kind oil injection system on a race bike. But I'll bet that you've never had anyone tell you that they read something about "slow" and "unreliable" CanAm engines!

I've ridden many long races in my life and never had a mechanical DNF on a CanAm. Even when I owned the dealership, the only mechanical DNF our professional rider experienced was when he exploded the spokes on the rear wheel of his 400 after a hard landing. I found this very impressive since his 2 factory support bikes were almost box stock and he was riding some of the West Coast Nationals against full factory machines (okay, we later opted for heavier spokes).

CanAm's were far from perfect. No motorcycle or company is perfect. They eventually dropped behind in technology, marketing practices, and R & D. For example, CanAm stuck with drum brakes and dual shocks years after other manufacturers were using disc's and single shocks. And the air cooled motors remained basically the same design for over a decade (I believe they did this simply because they could -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it).

Although I owned a CanAm dealership that in 2 years (80-82), failed miserably, I would not blame this on CanAm's marketing. Young and ambitious does not necessarily create success. Business skills and experience are important and necessary factors that were apparently lacking in a certain 23 year old who was out having the time of his life. That's all I can say about that one without suffering further self-incrimination.

So the CanAm website was created because I believed that many people out there are also interested in remembering the fun they had on these motorcycles. But what has surprised me, is the number of people who have wrote to tell me that they are still riding them. I'm not limiting this statement to Vintage racing against bikes of similar technology. I'm talking about people who are still riding a CanAm every weekend and putting them up against the newer hi-tech machines.

I originally didn't give much forethought to things like a "parts reference" section, or technical information on various models. But because of the numerous email inquiries I receive each week, I'm doing my best to follow through with these ideas. I can't ride anymore because of an eye disease called RP (no, Lasher is not a guide dog), and I'm not really interested in making money off of motorcycles (I have a real career now). But what does give me a great deal of pleasure today, is being able to watch others enjoy motorcycles to the degree that I once did. And if I can help them accomplish this in any way, then I have found a means to once again extract an emotional rush from motorcycles even though I can no longer ride.

This site is growing because other people feel the same way about CanAm motorcycles and sharing the fun. Without a great deal of research on my part, and by simply asking over the WWW, I have been able to acquire and post useful information that has benefited many CanAm owners. But this is only a residual effect since my initial intention was to make sure that CanAm motorcycles were not forgotten -- a trivial pursuit you might say. The best ideas for this website have come from viewers like you. So if you have an idea for adding to this website, please don't keep it to yourself.

Mike Rydman